February is Black History month. It’s a time when we celebrate the contributions African Americans have made to American society. Believe it or not, I have many environmental accomplishments to celebrate during Black History month this year.
You might say:
Ronnie, why are you celebrating? According to the study, Air of Injustice, African Americans are disproportionally affected by power plant emissions because we tend to live closer to urban areas where power plants are located. And Ronnie, the US Department of Health and Human Services says that African Americans are 30% more likely to have asthma than White Americans, and are 3 times more likely to die from asthma. Ronnie, you’re an African American woman…didn’t you see the study that was released on Jan 4th by Boston University Medical center that suggests that air pollution may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in African American women?
Yes, yes, yes, I am aware of all of those statistics and all of those studies. As an African American, I am constantly made aware of how we are disproportionally impacted by pretty much everything. I deal with this information the same way so many other African Americans deal with it: I check the facts and I take action.
During Black History Month, we celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans that have taken action in spite of the challenges that we face. And this is why, this month, I am happy to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of Lisa P. Jackson, the first African American to be named as the EPA administrator.
Lisa P. Jackson has dedicated much of her career to ensuring that our kids will breathe air that is free from dangerous pollutants. During her term, Administrator Jackson has been focusing on improving air and water quality, eliminating greenhouse gases, and protecting our communities from toxic pollutants. I am particularly happy about the fact that Administrator Jackson has a commitment to environmental justice. She works to make sure all Americans (regardless of their race, income, age, sex, etc), are treated fairly and have equal protections under the environmental laws and regulations that are designed to protect our communities.
There’s another reason I am celebrating Administrator Jackson’s leadership–the new Mercury and Air Toxic Standards. For the first time ever, we have national standards that will protect our families by requiring power plants to cut toxic emissions such as mercury, arsenic and cyanide, among others. The EPA estimates that by 2016, these new standards will prevent thousands of deaths and save billions of dollars each year as our health improves due to a cleaner environment.
Finally, I am celebrating because African American moms and dads can join with thousands of parents to fight for our kids’ right to clean air. We can share our feelings that we will not tolerate this air of injustice!
Photo credit: Moms Clean Air Force